Libertarians and delusionism

This post from TokyoTom deplores the fact that (TT excepted) supporters of the Austrian School, and for that matter libertarians in general, are almost universally committed to delusional views on climate science. The obvious question is why. As TT points out, there are plenty of political opportunities to use climate change to attack subsidies and other existing interventions. And the fact that the environmental movement has shifted (mostly) from profound suspicion of markets to enthusiastic support for market-based policies such as carbon taxes and cap and trade seems like a big win. Most obviously, emissions trading relies on property rights and Austrians are supposed to like property rights.

On the other hand, given the near-universal rejection of mainstream climate science, we can draw one of only three conclusions
(a) Austrians/libertarians are characterized by delusional belief in their own intellectual superiority, to the point where they think they can produce an analysis of complex scientific problems superior to that of actual scientists, in their spare time and with limited or no scientific training in the relevant disciplines, reaching a startling degree of unanimity for self-described “sceptics”
(b) Austrians/libertarians don’t understand their own theory and falsely believe that, if mainstream climate science is right, their own views must be wrong
(c) Austrians/libertarians do understand their own theory and correctly believe that, if mainstream climate science is right, their own views must be wrong

While (a) clearly has some validity, most of the comments on climate science made here by self-described Austrians and libertarians suggest that either (b) or (c) is true. But which?

The problem is complicated (but also to some extent clarified) by the bewildering variety of Austrian/libertarian sects. Starting as far out on the spectrum as we can go, it seems clear that, if mainstream climate science is correct, neither anarcho-capitalism nor paleolibertarianism can be sustained. The problem with anarcho-capitalism and other views where property rights are supposed to emerge, and be defended, spontaneously, and without a state is obvious. If states do not create systems of rights to carbon emissions, the only alternatives are to do nothing, and let global ecosystems collapse, or to posit that every person on the planet has right to coerce any other person not to emit CO2 into the atmosphere. For paleolibertarians, the fact that property rights must be produced by a new global agreement, rather than being the inherited ‘peculiar institutions’ of particular societies seems equally problematic.

For more moderate libertarians, who accept in principle that property rights are derived from the state, I think the problem is more that the creation of a large new class of property rights brings them face to face with features of their model that are generally buried in a near-mythical past.

To start with, there’s the problem of justice in the original allocation. Until now, people developed countries have been appropriating the assimilative capacity of the atmosphere as if there was always “enough and as good” left over. Now that it’s obvious this isn’t true, we need to go back and start from scratch, and this process may involve offsetting compensation which effectively reassigns some existing property rights.

Then there is the problem that the emissions rights we are talking about are, typically time-limited and conditional. But if rights created now by modern states have this property, it seems reasonable to suppose that this has always been true, and therefore that existing property rights may also be subject to state claims of eminent domain.

Overall, though I, think that acceptance of the reality of climate change would be good for libertarianism as a political movement. It would kill off the most extreme and unappealing kinds of a priori logic-chopping, while promoting an appreciation of Hayekian arguments about the power of market mechanisms. And the very fact of uncertainty about climate change is a reminder of the fatality of conceits of perfect knowledge.

This seems to be the kind of thing Tokyo Tom is talking about. But so far, it seems as if he is in a minority of one. Any others want to join him?

Note While I’d be interested in comments from libertarians on whether they think mainstream climate science is consistent with their views, comments repeating delusionist talking points will be deleted or ruthlessly edited.

338 thoughts on “Libertarians and delusionism

  1. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    But Terje – that quiz is a bit simple. It says I believe in a command economy – thats nonsense and cant be determined from my answers and it is suggesting I believe in a command economy in exactly the same way as a national socialist does (lefter than me??)… and you suggest people cant discern the hues of the right? This quiz cant discern the hues of the left and there is no provision for centrists who believe in mixed economies – a bit more public provision than we have now. I dont believe in a totally command economy at all, I believe in mixed socialism – quite a different animal. Im on the continuum somewhere around the middle, a little to the left of the right “moderates”. Now is that thoroughly confusing? No more confusing than the average Austrian!!!

  2. When we attempt to classify people in terms of political beliefs (in the sense of ideals that they would want to see implemented, in their version of a perfect world), we often fall into the cognitive trap of mapping them to the political spectrum of a straight line from left wing to right wing. In reality, political categories – to the extent that they can be identified – just don’t map to a one dimensional measure, ie to left wing, centre left,…., right wing. Unfortunately the “political spectrum” is ubiquitous in the media and in books.

    I’ve often disagreed with what traditionally would be called left wing policies or left wing beliefs, and have also found common ground with some people who would see themselves as traditional right wing (ie Liberal voters in Australia). However, most of my views would be classified as left wing, and that’s the label I usually get.

    I like the idea of having freedom to choose what I do with my body – eg euthanasia should the time come where it is wiser to pull up stumps than endure unmanagable pain, for one. I think schools should be public and non-denominational, with state responsibility for ensuring that everyone has access to the same education, whatever their background. I disagree strongly with religious schools: religion should be kept out of education, except as a social or philosophical topic to examine. This personal view is presumable seen as left wing and is often portrayed as some kind of envy of people rich enough to send their children to a private school, but in my case that is not of any concern to me. I just think that the education should be universal, and by keeping it secular, we have at least a chance of avoiding the splits in our society that come from some groups keeping to themselves by controlling their education via their private (or more usually, private religious) schools. Universal secular education would hopefully assist in shrinking the cultural gaps that have crept into our society via proliferation of non-state schools. I have no objection at all to people having religious instruction, so long as it isn’t as part of the formal schooling system.

    On the other hand, keeping the state school curricula free of state-based “indoctrination”. put this in quotes because only a few subjects really have the potential to be distorted – I’m pretty sure that communist maths in the old USSR was much the same as Aussie Liberal or Labor maths 🙂

    I don’t particularly dislike the idea of a democratic, capitalist society, but I do disagree with unregulated and/or self-regulated markets. We all know that some people will manipulate markets or play “unfairly”, brutalising competitors in ways that most people find distasteful and would feel that the behaviour is immoral. Regulation is basically a laying down of the rules of the market so that manipulation and foul play are minimised, while not locking up the market. Regulation of some sort always comes about when a group of people try to trade with each other, whether the rules are tacit and informal, or whether they are codified and enforced by a regulatory body. What a regulatory body can do that tacit, informal regulation cannot, is prevent the regulated group from taking advantage of other groups which are not part of the market place directly, ie they don’t trade but they are nevertheless affected by what happens in the market. This view is most likely classified as left wing because I insist on an independent regulatory body for markets, rather than unregulated or voluntarily regulated. Then again, I am not at all opposed to the capitalist notion in a moderated form. Is that centrist, right-of-centre, or rightwing? Or something lying on a different axis to the left-right political spectrum? I think it is the latter, but perhaps others don’t.

    When it comes to freedoms such as owning guns, especially machine guns and other weapons of “personal defence””, I think it is in society’s interest to limit weapons to those who have a justifiable need for them. Once too many people own guns and larger more deadly weapons, it becomes the dominant strategy for everyone else to arm themselves “just in case”. Now I am aware that some countries have lower gun-related fatalities and yet have fairly liberal gun ownership laws, while some other countries have more restrictive laws yet have higher firearm-related death rates. Demographics, population geography, society views on equity and fairness, and may other factors may confound attempts to extract the relationship between firearm ownership and firearm-related deaths. If I am not mistaken, my view on gun ownership is probably at odds with the views of libertarians and also of the right (at least in the USA). But is it really a leftwing position? Or is it something else, not amenable to placement on the left-right political axis?

    Just chewing the fat, interested in any thoughts on this?

    Cheers,

    Donald Oats
    Don.

  3. @Sea-bass

    Hey Sea Bass,

    That was the great mistake of the planned economies and yes left wingers need to recognise the limitations of planning and foresight. I wish libertarians could be more constrained in their approach to these issues but let’s just say on the one hand we have people declaring time to suspend democracy to address AGW and those who say it is a delusion. We need to be careful of both extremes. Libertarians do have some valuable things to say but they aren’t exactly gifted in the persuasion skills area.

    My view is that we most definitely need to maintain a market based economy but we must be realistic about the limits of value that can be derived from people chasing after their self interest. If some game theory ideas are anything to go by it would seem that a better perspective is that we maintain our self interest while keeping a careful eye on the welfare of those around us and society in general. To put it bluntly, I have always found the idea that simply letting people persue their self interest without broadening their horizon of what “self” is really about is a recipe for eventual chaos.

  4. @John H
    Yes, but the trouble with the centrist approach is that the centre keeps moving progressively further to the left, which is why most “centrists” perceive libertarians as extreme. If a party like the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) was aroud 100 years ago, nobody would have thought of them as extreme, but these days even a moderate libertarian position relegates one to the margin.

    People talk about John Howard as a rightwing ideologue, and yet taxes and government spending increased under his government, at levels reminiscent of Gough Whitlam. I mentioned before that I considered Labor more consistent with libertarian principles, which shows how far the goal posts have been shifted to the left.

    If game theory is anything to go by, everybody is a rational, utility maximising individual who gains no utility from other people’s welfare. I understand the role that such models play in the theory of the provision of public goods and regulation. But I don’t know how consistent these considerations are with the views of the vast majority of JQ’s bloggers, who might believe this and then go on to criticise neo-classical economics because it makes the same assumptions about rationally minded individuals with perfect information. You seem to assume that if it wasn’t for government, people would suddenly revert to a bunch of uncommunicative sociopaths with no capacity to arrive at a collective solution for a problem. Government may be needed to stop the extremes of anti-social behaviour, but it definitely is not the root from which cooperation and human interaction spring.

  5. @Sea-bass

    No Sea Bass, I’m not thinking of game theory based on the concept of the rational individual. It is pointless to use the concept of “rationality” because it is both a cause and product of human behavior. The word is too ill defined so why economists ever relied on this idea is beyond my purview.

    I did not say without govt people will become … . I stated that the idea of the pursuit of self interest as the prime criterion for progress is deeply flawed.

    The root of human co-operation is not markets or government, it is a product of evolution, its initation probably arising in the development of allocentric capacities, a faculty evident in many mammals. Competition may drive a society forward(though not always) but co-operation keeps society together. The trick is in the balance. It is my opinion that we have pushed the competition imperative too hard.

  6. Donald – you agree with freedom for things you might want to do and disagree with freedoms for things you don’t want other people to do. It suggests a pretty weak commitement to the whole notion of freedom. Even though I find it somewhat tragic your outlook isn’t that unusual.

    The notion that the Australian right will defend the civil liberties of gun owners is farcical and clearly refuted by recent history. I know gun owners who use John Howard posters for target practise.

    On the other hand Kevin Rudd has been a recreational shooter.

    http://ausgunowners.wordpress.com/2006/12/11/is-kevin-rudd-good-for-shooters/

  7. If a party like the LDP (Liberal Democratic Party) was aroud 100 years ago, nobody would have thought of them as extreme, but these days even a moderate libertarian position relegates one to the margin.

    Seabass – on the economics this is spot on. Historically this is why the libertarian tribe and the conservative tribe have been in bed together (what they call fusionism). Now that the status quo is social democracy and conservatives are content to merely hold the line the old tribal alliance is in rapid decline.

    However if the LDP had been touting it’s gay marriage or prostitution policy 100 years ago then they would probably have been seen as extreme.

  8. @TerjeP (say tay-a)
    Yes, I forgot to consider the more social issues – probably because this is where classical liberals/libertarians and many social democrats find common ground, while our views with respect to economic issues make us look like far-right loonies as far as these other bloggers are concerned.

  9. @rog
    Rog, I think I recall you left a comment earlier disagreeing in no uncertain terms with my comments to Stephan Kinsella that kicked og John`s post. Can I trouble you to lay them out for me and others?

  10. @John H
    Well said, and many libertarians would agree with you that cooperation is a production of evolution (Bruce Yandle is one: http://www.thefreemanonline.org/featured/the-commons-tragedy-or-triumph/). Further, libertarian focus is not on competition so much as it is upon voluntary cooperation, as I noted above. Such cooperation brings us many sophisticated organizations that help us deal with social challenges, including husbanding the commons, as Elinor Ostrom`s research documents.

    The libertarian opposition to government is that as it gets further and further away from being the self-government of a community, the more it actual engenders certain types of socially destructive competition, as insiders seek to use it to protect and advance their interests, and pretty soon we end up with enduring battles over control of the wheel.

  11. @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    I would point out Terje, that I live in a world in which many things are not of my choosing, yet I don’t feel the need to smash up society to make it conform to my liking. In the vast majority of cases I just adapt to the situation. In others I might right a letter to a minister or something; in the real world compromise is something we do . My views are my attempt(s) to balance individual freedom against its effects upon others. Obviously you have a fairly different perspective about the relative importance of individual freedom compared with society’s needs for a level of cohesion.

    As for gun liberty and which Australian party promotes or restrains it – I don’t think I was stating that Australian Liberals would allow everyone to own firearms, or to apply only mild restrictions. My view is simply that too many people with too many guns tends to encourage others to get guns as protetction (against other people who may be packin’ heat), so once guns are widely accepted and easily accessed, my guess is that this is a stable condition, ie politically difficult to go from a high gun ownership and freedom to use them for “home defense”, as the Americans sometimes put it, to a low gun ownership with strong restrictions on eligibility. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t implying that the Australian Liberal Party had widened the civil liberties with respect to gun ownership. I remember the gun buyback etc. which John Howard implemented after the Port Arthur massacre.

    Anyway,

    Many people I have met quite happily do things that are in some sense altruistic, without feeling that they need some kind of monetary reward or public recognition. Quite a few scientists I’ve met come across that way. Society is such that they can be scientists: the self-interest factor here is that the scientist can satisfy their curiosity about some corner of the universe, and they are motivated in part by what contribution they can make to society by doing what they do best. Some I’ve met are far from left wing yet share the sense of wanting to be valuable – to society – in their capacity as a scientist. I’ve also met quite a few people who have entrepreneurial flare and who truly believe that their contribution to society is from their inventions that increase the capability of society in some way. Mobile phones, mass production process of Ford, the transistor, the internet, wireless internet (CSIRO patent) and the web, and many more things in every domain, have at their heart someone who senses the possibilites – perhaps not clearly – that their invention will enable.

    I’ve also met tragic cases (generally not in the scientific domain, mostly in business) in which no matter what compromise or agreement is reached, as soon as it is done they immediately set about trying to get more by undermining the agreement, to the extent that they risk the supposed goal they need others to assist them with. In other words they act with a pathological version of self-interest and have only limited appreciation of their impact upon others – if they care about it at all. In these situations, repeated around the world, groups of people tend to feel that such over-reach and disregard for an agreement just reached is an example of unethical behaviour; they want some kind of collective laws to limit the impact of such behaviour.

    Now any law is only of value if people choose to behave within the limits set by the law, and if it can be enforced when transgression occurs. From your comments about my commitment to liberty, ie: It suggests a pretty weak commitement to the whole notion of freedom. Even though I find it somewhat tragic your outlook isn’t that unusual., I have to say that in order to make sense of that, my views must be in diametric opposition to the basic principles of the Libertarian (as I understand it, if I’m mistaken please correct me).

    So my question is how does a Liberatian expect individuals to deal with confrontation and bullying behaviour of a violent nature – it might be petty crime or it might be white-collar aggression against clients and/or contractors, and especially against perceived competitors/enemies. Ignoring the fact that a significant subset of people have an empathetic personality, and that another significant subset have a win at all costs hyper-competitive personality, means that if individual freedoms are taken to the logical conclusion of everyone can do anything, it will erode a society’s cohesion, destabilising it completely. During that the empathetic people get challenged and beaten down by the ultra-competitive individually free people. I would like to understand the point or surface where you draw the line between individual freedoms and responsibility towards others. I feel like you are trying to treat the idea of Libertarianism rationally; however, I feel that you are not taking sufficient account of the wide variation in human personality that motivates an individual’s behaviour. Somewhere there must be a line otherwise Libertarianism is poorly disguised anarchy in pure form. Is it that you feel people will be responsible enough to individually agree to play fair, without the need for codified enforcement? If an individual gets busted by the suckers who realise he has sucked them into a Ponzi scheme, what will happen next? What will they do to that person in a Libertarian world? Hang them from the nearest tree branch? Beat them up? Ask him to apologise and to return the money?

    Talking of commitment to freedom as though individual freedom has no significant negative impact upon others, well that is difficult for me to apprehend. With every freedom there is a reciprocal responsibility to others. If not, then I’m free to harm someone, to take what I want from others, and they are free to do the same thing. I doubt that your version of Libertarianism is intended to be this extreme, yet I don’t get how you expect individual freedom to never conflict with society, unless there is no society.

    Thanks for commenting though,

    Regards,

    Don.

  12. I found key parts of the questionnaire poorly composed as the terms were loaded so as to preclude senisble reponses. It seemed very much driven by right wing mythologies of the nature of political and economic power — centrally about the nature of governance.

    For the record I got 8 on the social scale and 2.5 on the economic, bearing in mind that in several cases there was no reasonable option.

  13. @Donald Oats
    Only one thing Don. I think the label communist is inappropriate entirely fro Russia under Stalin. It had more in common with fascism or a centralised dictatorship by regime (headed by Stalin) than it ever had with “communism.” Same with Pol Pot’s Cambodia. China was a closer example of communism than Russia ever was. The myth of communist Russia is just that – a myth. Im not even sure the Russians quite enjoyed this “communism”. There is also nothing to say that such a regime could not rise in any of our so called advanced democratic nations. We need to beware the rise of dictators or dictatorial regimes espousing a seductively extreme rhetoric, whether “communistic” or ” unfettered free marketistisms”. They both share dangerous aspects in common.

  14. Alice,

    The problem is that Communism, once employed, has the same characteristics as fascism. That is what the left in the pre-1950s (and many post Hungary) never realised. In order to “free” people, they would create serfs out of everyone.

  15. @Alice
    If you believe that the label “communist” was inappropriate to Russia under Stalin, you’re also going to have to accept that the term “free market capitalism” is also rather inappropriate to what we have going today.

    @Donald Oats
    Libertarians, (i.e. non-anarchists) do draw a line in the sand, and that is at negative rights. So a government can exist whose responsibility it is to protect negative rights (i.e. freedom from slavery, torture, oppression, fraud etc). Getting back to the topic at hand, the question of an emissions trading scheme is consistent with libertarian principles; if I undertake an action (emitting carbon dioxide) that interferes with my neighbours ability to enjoy their property, then the powers that be can force me to pay restitution. Of course, the diffuse nature of some problems make them more problematic, but this is the general idea.

    The less radical members of the Austrian school such as Mises and Hayek understood that a certain level of taxation and government would be necessary to deal with the fears of which you speak – the anarcho-capitalists who currently dominate Austrian thought deny this, but even then I presume they have thought of something (I am not familiar with anarchist literature, so will let them reply themselves).

    Besides, is the little guy so much better off even with all this government? You seem to have a rosy view of regulation, thinking that regulations are put in place by governments seeking to help the little guy, but often big business wants these regulations in place so that they can strangle their smaller competitors.

  16. Sea-bass, theoretically anti-competitive behaviour should restrain the big boys from picking on the little fella, but in practice we seem to have the opposite which begs the question why is the Rudd government allowing this to happen.

  17. Obviously you have a fairly different perspective about the relative importance of individual freedom compared with society’s needs for a level of cohesion.

    Donald – I think cohesion is a bit of a weasle word. If it means you want people to be polite to strangers, friendly with their neighbours, helpful towards old ladies crossing roads, generous in spirit, charitable, having a general willingness to volunteer for good causes etc then I want all those things and I think individual freedom is fundamental to achieving them. The wide spread existance of friendly societies, non-profit private hospitals and philanthropy and the like that was quite common in the first half of the 20th century was progressively destroyed by the growth in government. Collective responsibility administered through government undermines personal responsibility and the initiative it invokes.

    I want “smaller government and stronger society”. That was in fact the motto of the LDP when I first joined.

    Many people I have met quite happily do things that are in some sense altruistic, without feeling that they need some kind of monetary reward or public recognition.

    Libertarians are no different. John Humphreys founded the ALS and the LDP and is very much a libertarian. It hasn’t stopped him starting a not for profit education fund that helps Cambodian students get an education. It doesn’t stop me giving money to charity or helping the neighbours. Libertarians believe freedom and small government leads to the good life precisely because people do care about their communities and other people. Statists may care as well but they are fixated on forcing people to be helpful which is not a good way to build community spirit. The more the statists forces people to do things the more they get frustrated with peoples unwillingness to cooperate. They assume that people who don’t want to be controlled must be evil. Sometimes I think statists are stupid but it isn’t that simple either. In practice I think statists just have serious blind spots.

    So my question is how does a Liberatian expect individuals to deal with confrontation and bullying behaviour of a violent nature – it might be petty crime or it might be white-collar aggression against clients and/or contractors, and especially against perceived competitors/enemies.

    Just harking back to the gun issue it seems that when a very violent criminal comes through my front door the gun prohibitionist expects me to be sitting on my hands waiting for the police service to find an officer who isn’t busy and has time to help. So it seems to me that many statists don’t want us to deal with the problem at all. Rather than strengthen the weak their solution is to weaken the strong. However it is wrong to broad brush categorise the stong as bullies. Most strong people are also good people.

    This is actually quite an active area of discussion amoungst libertarians. However most libertarians in Australia would be quite statified to see the state shrunk down to it’s pre WWII size. We still had a public police service and prisons and the like at the time to deal with violent bullies. Personally I’m very interested in private alternatives to these services but I’m not entirely convinced by them.

    If you seriously want to know what libertarians think and why then you need to engage with them. That is what the ALS is for. I spend a lot of my week disagreeing with libertarians so don’t feel shy about doing the same. Some libertarians what no government. I’d simply be happy just to have income tax abolished (as a consequence the government would be confined to spending per capita like it did in the early 1990s).

  18. What is the difference between negative rights and positive rights? Rights I like and rights I don’t. And that’s philosophy!

  19. @Freelander
    I sense sarcasm, but it’s not about me liking negative rights more than positive rights. Having a right to life or right to not be enslaved implies that nobody should be able to exercise such actions against me that contravene those rights. A positive right, such as a right to food, shelter, health care or employment necessarily entail that another person should be forced to supply the means for me to exercise that right.

    Granted, some libertarians believe in both types of rights, and believe people have a duty to help others in meeting their basic living requirements; they simply do not want government to enforce a positive duty of care.

    It’s a bit removed from supposedly freedom-loving people saying that they want people to have as much choice and freedom of expression as possible, unless it involves sending their children to a school that supports their religious beliefs, criticism of certain groups or people or disposal of one’s private property (such as owning a bar in which smoking is permitted) in a way that the “freedom-lover” does not approve.

  20. Hey ref=”#comment-248015″>@Sea-bass You may have missed it, but in an earlier post I wrote the following, and did not get a response:

    So you believe the world is getting warmer? You believe it is caused by human activity? And you believe that government intervention will make things worse because (a) they will fail to reduce global warming (b) they will increase political power at the expense of individual freedom and (c) economic growth will be reduced compared to what it would otherwise be?
    Right?

  21. @Cynic
    Sorry, I missed it. That is fairly close to what I would say – (a) and (b) definitely, and to some extent (c), as long as it is in conjunction with (b). If the government came up with a good scheme that reduced short-term economic growth but the long-term benefits were significant, I would consider this a decent tradeoff.

    As for others who are still denialists, I imagine that if temperatures become significantly warmer over the next 5-10 years, they will definitely have to reassess their position on this issue.

  22. Sea-bass, aside from India & China, deveoped world governments can breathe a sigh of relief for according to the latest reports from the IEA which is scheduled to be released on the 10 November 2009, there is expected to be a substantial revision downward in its long-term forecast for ‘global oil demand’ as a result of the drop in industrial activity from the current recession, improved energy-efficiency measures and climate-change legislation. And according to one independent economist, Philip Verleger, “The rise in global oil consumption over the next 10 years could be minimal,” as annual growth is also reviewed downwards within 0.5% to 1% range.

  23. @Sea-bass

    Libertarians believe in property rights but property rights are nothing but postive rights that are socially determined and place obligations on others considerably stronger than a simple duty of care. Libertarians tend to like to have it both ways. We live in a society in which there is an interconnected web of obligations between us; libertarians like to pick and choose which of the obligations they feel obliged to keep. Having a ‘philosophy’ to justify their anti-social behaviour means that they need not feel bad when they avail themselves of the rights society provides them while avoiding the obligations society also expects. Atlas shrugged? Libertarians have never done any of the heavy lifting!

  24. @Alice

    I think the label communist is inappropriate entirely for Russia under Stalin. It had more in common with fascism or a centralised dictatorship by regime (headed by Stalin) than it ever had with “communism.”

    Exactly so, though this may be said of all the other regimes said by the apologists for/advocates of capitalism to be “communist”. Absent meaningful control of policy by working people, one can’t even call these societies prolatarian. Plainly, none of these barrack states were at the level of development required to make such possible.

    Sea Bass thinks this is an opening for some sort of historical non-aggression pact in which we get to deny that the USSR was communist if he can deny that western societies are “free market capitalist”. The problem here of course that unless we’re going pomo this is not how to go about analysis. One must analyse actual social realtions to derive the class character of a given society. There can be no doubt that western societies (including Nazi Germany) were/are capitalist as they have all of the essential features — trade in labour power, means of production as commodities a definite class associoated with equitable control of these means …

    He can quibble over the precise configuration of each iteration, but not what it is. “Free market” capitalism is probably an impossible paradox, so while Sea Bass is right about these societies not being free market capitalist, the point is moot as in practice, capitalism will never take such a form. All iterations of capitalist society will use states to form and buttress local markets, underpin finance, guaranrtee the integrity of tradeable instruments etc.

    And we historical materialists can and will hold the capitalist classes entirely responsible for the shape of the resultant policy and its consequences.

  25. @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    Terje,

    If you think cohesion is a weasel word let me tell you about similiar words psychology. Spare us the semantics, to me the meaning is quite clear.

    It might be true that govt welfare has degraded altruism. I can’t be sure of that because libertarians are so often blaming governments for so much that I have long since abandoned taking such criticisms too seriously. That is, before I can give any credence to those arguments I will need to see these arguments articulated by non-libertarians.

    It is dangerous to presuppose that the elimination of govt welfare will induce a wave of altruism. The world is a very different place today and there are many factors about our daily lives that mitigate against altruism. I’m not going to articulate my views on this because I have an idiosyncratic view of human behavior and I have encountered far too many libertarians whose views of human behavior hark back to the 19th century. Libertarians are obsessed with economics but seem to have very little interest in modern studies of human behavior. So I am not particularly interested in what libertarians believe about how society shapes human behavior. I am very interested in their views on economics and the dangers of government power, they have some very valuable lessons in those arenas but it seems to be the case their understanding of human behavior is deduced from their views on those matters rather than being an independent study in itself. Socialists often make the same mistake. In case people haven’t noticed there is something of a revolution going in our understanding of human behavior. These new perspectives haven’t hit Bookworld yet but it is coming.

    As to the welfare issue we do have a big problem there. Welfare at the personal and company levels is completely out of hand. This sounds conspiratorial but I know people who make these decisions and have been informed that for many years there has been a quiet policy of shunting people off to disability pension. Only 2 months ago a press release highlighted a recent huge spike in those registering for disability. The reasons for this are obvious, the process began under Howard and continues to this day.

    I’ve engaged with plenty of libertarians and have learnt a good deal from them. What strikes me as odd though is that libertarians don’t seem particularly anxious to learn from others. It is as if they think their world view and anthropology is sufficient for their needs, they seem to think that if we just listen for Hayek et al then we don’t need to look at all these other areas, as if the market will just produce this wonderful spontaneous order and so we can throw out the rule books, just let the market dictate peoples’ behavior. Again, this is a very atavistic anthropology.

  26. That is, before I can give any credence to those arguments I will need to see these arguments articulated by non-libertarians.

    Try Noel Pearson. I don’t think he is a libertarian.

    It is dangerous to presuppose that the elimination of govt welfare will induce a wave of altruism.

    I agree. I don’t think we can undo what was done simply by putting things in reverse. However I don’t think continuing to undermine civil society is a good thing either. We need creative ways out of this mess. However recognising the root cause of the mess is still important.

    What strikes me as odd though is that libertarians don’t seem particularly anxious to learn from others.

    That observation strikes me as odd also. Most libertarians I know are very intellectually commited. Perhaps we move in different circles.

  27. While I’d be interested in comments from libertarians on whether they think mainstream climate science is consistent with their views, comments repeating delusionist talking points will be deleted or ruthlessly edited.

    Why? If you were posting on free trade, would you delete or ruthlessly edit people who said imports destroy jobs?

    I don’t understand why the self-proclaimed defenders of scientific consensus are so afraid of people posting nonsense. The answer can’t simply be, “But if they are spreading false information, it may end up hurting lots of people!” because that’s true in every political argument.

  28. BTW I hope I am not one of the delusional Austrian/libertarians on climate change. I would like to think I did a fair job in this EconLib article summarizing the various viewpoints on this issue (as well as an economist could be expected to do), and then in the final section on “Government Failure” I explained why someone could generally accept the IPCC and still oppose the so-called market solutions of a carbon tax or cap & trade.

  29. @Bob Murphy
    I delete delusionist comments for two reasons. First, I argued about such views in my early days as a blogger. At that time, there were a few genuine sceptics around. Now delusionists are locked into a tribal dogma, and there is no point in arguing with them, any more than with creationists.

    More importantly, people who want to present crank views on science should do so on a science site, such as RealClimate where they can get authoritative answers. As you imply, an economist should discuss economics and respond to (or at least, publish and let others evaluate)comments on that topic, however ill-conceived or at variance with their own views. I try to do this.

  30. I’m not sure if this is the right thread, but it does bear somewhat on the “tribal” delusionism issues discussed in past threads. Fred Singer & friends have been petitioning the American Physical Society (APS) to replace its existing statement on climate change with one that essentially nullifies the last 30 years of science. They got 206 signatures (out of 47,000 APS members), mostly people with PhDs in physics. However, APS firmly rejected it. Unlike a lot of these silly petitions, these people a re findable and very well-educated (and should know better), so they make a good test for “Why does somebody get into this?” Among other things, I used the NewsMeat search engine to find US political donations. I certainly did find a few Libertarians, but many more Republicans, an some I’m not sure of (i.e., one was into Obama birther stuff). Anyway, while much of this is USA-centric, those who study climate anti-science may find it interesting, and there was one Australian signer.

    The (huge) writeup is at DeSmogBlog, of which:
    p.14-15 talk about politcal demographic among the signers
    p42-45 talks about “Why?”, some of which derived from earlier discussions here.

  31. The AGW lie is alive and well on this blog and anyone points out ‘scientific facts’ -like the globe has been cooling for the last 4 billion years unabated since its molten inception, is labelled delusional (as well as censored).

    Even for you, Tony, this is impressive. The “cooling for the last 4 billion years” point was suggested by pro-science commentators in an attempt to satirise delusionist talking points with something too stupid even for the stupidest delusionist. They ought to have known that this was an impossible task. As you ably demonstrate, delusionism is beyond satire. So, even though you’ve displayed the typical rightwinger’s disregard of civility and property rights in breaking clearly stated rules, I’m going to let your comment stand, as a benchmark that other delusionists can only aspire to.

  32. @Tony G
    I suppose you are desperate ti bring up that sell out Lindzen Tony G? Dont worry Ive already received a spam email dealing with the sell out Lindzen’s research (dont even try it – he gets paid $2500 a day working for the coal and oil industries).

    Tony – people lie you will be deluged by the sheer weight popular opinion soon. It just takes the slow a while to catch up – just like with the war on Iraq. Lies can always get an audiences faster than the truth, but the truth has a much longer shelf life.

  33. Alice, there is strong scientific evidence set in the stuff Bob Dylan said everybody must get; that the globe has been cooling for the last 4 billion years unabated. Babbling on about someone’s pay is like you have consumed ‘everything you want’ed in your restaurant Alice. It is either the proponents of AAAAAGW are lying or they are off their tree.

    Alice the globe is definitely cooling long term, to say otherwise classifies you as a AGW liar .

    Once was enough, Tony, you’ve won the contest. Nothing more along these lines or I really will ban you. BTW, how are you going with that “Why are interest rates always higher under Labor, shtick? Worked out a good rephrasing. How about “Why do interest rates sometimes go up under Labor?”

    .

  34. Are you saying that the surface temperature of the earth wasn’t above 100° C 4 billion years ago and that it has not continually cooled to reach 20° C today?

    To deny the long term historical trend of the earth’s surface cooling from 100° C 4 billion years ago to 20° C today is “something too stupid even for the stupidest” AGW BSA to spruik.

    The Earth’s atmosphere and climate have changed since the Earth first formed more than four billion years ago. We know this from the geological record of the earliest known sedimentary rocks which could only have been deposited in water. Water boils above 100° C under normal atmospheric conditions. The presence of these early sedimentary rocks indicates that by four billion years ago, the surface temperature of the Earth must have cooled below 100° C

    I will get back to you on interest rates, but you would have to say it looks like the ALP is on the banks payroll, wiping out all their competition and letting the lending margin over the official cash rate blow out dramatically.

  35. Tony G :
    Are you saying that the surface temperature of the earth wasn’t above 100° C 4 billion years ago and that it has not continually cooled to reach 20° C today?
    To deny the long term historical trend of the earth’s surface cooling from 100° C 4 billion years ago to 20° C today is “something too stupid even for the stupidest” AGW BSA to spruik.
    The Earth’s atmosphere and climate have changed since the Earth first formed more than four billion years ago. We know this from the geological record of the earliest known sedimentary rocks which could only have been deposited in water. Water boils above 100° C under normal atmospheric conditions. The presence of these early sedimentary rocks indicates that by four billion years ago, the surface temperature of the Earth must have cooled below 100° C
    I will get back to you on interest rates, but you would have to say it looks like the ALP is on the banks payroll, wiping out all their competition and letting the lending margin over the official cash rate blow out dramatically.

    I’m not a cruel man TonyG so I’m not going to ask you to understand that the 4 billion year long term cooling trend you speak of has no impact at all on the current problems associated with climate change. Just accept it and move on as best you can.

  36. Thanks for not being cruel Nanks, unfortunately that doesn’t change the well established fact that the globe has cooled on average about 0.00000002° every year for the last 4 billion years. Cherypicking a 0.0000000375 sample of that 4 billion year data to represent the globe as warming is a fraud.

    AGW is a fraud and the AGW fraudsters have been forced to change their rhetoric into “the current problems associated with climate change.”

    whoop-de-do, the climate is always changing and there will always be problems associated with that change. Mankind has survived through various ice ages and heat periods and dealt with those changes. We have been dealing successfully with ‘climate change’ since the beginning of mankind, but humanity can never stop or effect the climate changing, anyone who purports they can is a fraudster.

  37. @Tony G

    Your arguments are flawed. For example, “Mankind has survived various… blah, blah, blah.” Could it have been otherwise? What guidance then does it provide to tell us that we can overcome the current problem? None. Because, conditional on our existence what you have said simply follows and is a tautology. Hence, only someone with a thought disorder would believe it provides the information you seem to think it provides. Dysrationalia stricks again. “Dysrationalia is defined as the inability to think and behave rationally despite adequate intelligence.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dysrationalia and http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=rational-and-irrational-thought

  38. Hi Tony G, have you finished the reading homework I gave you a few months back?
    Obviously not, but I digress.
    Four billion years ago no one was there to measure it. And you claim that you know the exact temperature back then? Evidence of the temperature please, and I won’t accept any thermometer readings in urban areas, because as we know the Urban Heat Island Effect could bias the numbers. I expect the last 4 billion years of temperature from you without gaps and on an hourly basis – afterall, we must have all of the raw data to cross-check your results.

    Of you go now, you have some work to do…..

  39. Freelander Says:

    Your arguments are flawed. For example, “Mankind has survived various… blah, blah, blah.” Could it have been otherwise?

    See, I can understand what you’re talking about, but Tony G probably won’t, and it’s not because of “dysrationalia”. There’s a simpler explanation that doesn’t imply any kind of learning disablity, i.e. the Dunning-Kruger effect.

    Then again, I could be wrong. It was apparently me that gave Tony the 4 billion year cooling trend idea in the first place, so my judgement is open to question at this point. 😉

  40. And Tony, when I said that the earth was molten lava 4.5 billion years ago, that implies a surface temperature of at least 1400° C. If it cooled to somewhere around 100° C 4 billion years ago, that shows a cooling rate of 0.0000026° C/year. That’s a rate 130 times faster than the 0.00000002° C/year that you calculated for the 4 billion years after that.

    But your calculated number and mine are both correct. The thing is, the rate of cooling has quite obviously changed in the past. Do you accept this?

    Can you think of a good reason to believe that the rate of cooling cannot have changed again in the last 4 billion years? That is, that your calculated average rate is perfectly correct, but that the average doesn’t tell us everything that we need to know?

  41. I would just like to point out that when people who sit on the fence read that one side are a bunch of “delusionists” then they think “well, that bloke is a w@nker” and instead of persuading them, you push them away.

    Maybe a course on how to influence people might be a good idea.

  42. At least Nanks is sympathetic to my cognitive state.

    Being professionally diagnosed with a few thought disorders has no bearing on my ability to point out the fact that the globe is cooling and as such AGW is proved a fraud.

    I never said I knew the exact rate of the cooling, SJ say’s it is about 0.0000026° C/year, my back of the envelope calc comes out at about 0.00000002° C/year over 4 billion years. (Don, generally, the sedimentary records point to the globe being above 100°c about 4 billion years ago)

    As SJ says;
    ” The thing is, the rate of cooling has quite obviously changed in the past. Do you accept this?”

    I sure do and the rate of COOLING of the globe will continue to change in the future, but a rate of COOLING is not warming; it is cooling and therefore AGW (i.e. Global Warming) is a fraud.

    Freelander said
    “What guidance then does it provide to tell us that we can overcome the current problem”

    The climate has and will always change. How do you propose to change that fact Freelander?

  43. Has the climate changed in the past? Yes. Was the cause of the climate change man-made? If not, then how can we draw the conclusion that climate change is a distinctly man-made occurrence and that it is not natural or cyclical?

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